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Sport - Football

Legends: GARRINCHA

He was a physically challenged person and yet made a virtue of this adversity to become one of the greatest footballers to come from Brazil, next only to Pele. That was Garrincha (real name Manuel Dos Santos Francisco), also known as the `Little Bird', because of his short stature and movement, which was remarkable for the bursts of speed. It was in the World cup in Sweden in 1958, the year Pele was to make his explosive presence on the world stage that Garrincha too trooped in. He and Pele complemented each other in that match where Brazil routed the Soviets. Garrincha impressed in that match with his speed and unpredictable movements. Noted writer Brian Glanville describes in his Story of the World Cup, that `at one late memorable instant, Garrincha had and held the ball against five encircling Russians. Genius had overwhelmed mere effort'.

That was the start for Garrincha but his shining hour come later in the final against host Sweden. In a rain-marred title clash, Sweden had gone ahead.

The prediction was that should Brazil go a goal down then it would panic. None had then taken into account the brilliance of Garrincha. In six minutes, he brought forth his patented body swerve and acceleration to send the ball across for Vava to equalise. Half an hour later Garrincha had the Swedish defence in a trance once again for Vava to drive in the second. Thus started the rout of Sweden and Garrincha was a catalyst of that rout.

Born in Pau Grande in 1933, Garrincha joined Botafogo club, which was known for providing Brazil many leading players. His international debut came at age 24 in the South American Championship before the 1958 World Cup was to endorse his rising stature. Four years later the Chile edition was to become the World Cup of Garrincha. Pele was sidelined early through a thigh injury and Garrincha took over. Hints of his growing capabilities came through in Brazil's win against Spain, which had the irrepressible Puskas in its ranks. It was Garrincha's patented cross that enabled Amarildo to head in the winner.

Garrincha's increasing confidence was evident in the quarter final against England. Added to his swerves and speed was the power in his feet, both in launching for headers and taking shots. Short man that he was, Garrincha once out-jumped the six- footer Maurice Norman, the England defender, to nod in a flag kick. He then showed his prowess in sending telling free-kicks, notable for their power and angles to complete England's cup of woe. Garrincha's ability to launch himself for powerful headers once again came in handy in the semifinal when Brazil beat Chile.

An on-field incident leading to his being sent off the field caused an uproar and had its echo in Brazil. It is said the Brazilian President, who had been listening to the radio commentary, intervened to have Garrincha play in the final. Maybe because of the shock of that incident or the tight marking, the `Little Bird' failed to make it a memorable final for himself though he was a witness to Brazil winning the cup again beating Czechoslovakia. By now Garrincha had carved a niche for himself in the history of world football — S.R. Suryanarayan

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